VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis spent part of his 86th birthday paying tribute to people who have gone above and beyond in the exercise of charity.

At a ceremony in the Vatican Dec. 17, the pope presented the Mother Teresa Prize to: Franciscan Father Hanna Jallouf for his service to the poor of Syria; Gian Piero, also known as WuƩ, a homeless man who gives a portion of the alms he receives to people who are poorer than he is; and Silvano Pedrollo, an Italian businessman who builds schools, wells and health clinics in India, Africa and Latin America.

The award was sponsored by the Dicastery for the Service of Charity to honor people who, like St. Teresa of Kolkata, dedicate their lives to serving the poorest of the poor.

Two dozen members of the Missionaries of Charity and 20 guests housed in one of their Rome shelters joined Pope Francis and the award winners for the audience.

And soon after the ceremony, the Vatican press office announced that Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, head of the dicastery, had set off again for Ukraine with a truckload of generators, thermal clothing and other donations for the victims of war.

Pope Francis thanked his guests, including the cardinal, for their affection and for their witness to fraternity and the need for prayer, “which is the legacy that Mother Teresa always gave us. Even prayer in dark times — because this woman went through real spiritual storms with darkness inside, but she kept praying. She was a brave one!”

The pope prayed that “Mother Teresa from heaven” would help Christians to live “with simplicity and prayer.”